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It’s called the air conveyor and AMT President Tom Ingraham counts it as the main reason the company generated $20 million in revenue last year vs. $14 million the year before.
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The product, sold to bottlers nationwide, has lifted the company beyond its pre-recession revenue of $16 million. As a result, AMT has added a dozen employees since December, pushing its total to more than 100 people. It plans to hire more.
Even so, the company is turning down a lot of work because it lacks capacity to build more air conveyers.
“We could sell more,” Ingraham said.
It’s also close to completing a new 10,000-square foot building next to its existing plant east of Interstate 25 that will provide warehousing and storage space for the growing company as it continues manufacturing operations at its current building.
Ingraham established the company 16 years ago with Vice President Rod Talbot and Controller and Purchasing Manager Luanne Mullen after spinning off from conveyor company FleetwoodGoldcoWyard in Loveland.
While inventing most of the company’s technologies, Ingraham has bounced his ideas off Talbot, who also holds a few AMT patents.
“We’ve worked together probably longer than most marriages,” said Talbot, who started in the beverage industry sweeping floors in 1979.
Today, the company maintains most of the air-conveyor market share nationwide. The systems, which cost anywhere from $500,000 to $1 million, use less electricity than those of competitors, Ingraham said.
The air conveyer, which can extend as long as 1,000 feet, carries bottles from where they are made to where they are filled with soda. AMT’s air conveyer works particularly well with light-weight bottles as the beverage industry seeks to use less plastic.
Bottle-making and filling typically is done in separate facilities that can be located in different states. The air conveyer cuts labor and shipping costs by allowing those facilities to share the same location, Ingraham said.
Using the AMT air conveyer, bottlers also can reduce their emissions because they no longer have to truck bottles from manufacturing to bottling factories.
“As far as reducing their greenhouse gases, that was the easiest way for them to do it,” Ingraham said.
While AMT has added employees over the years, including a team of mechanical and electrical engineers for product design, the company’s air conveyer allows its customers to employ fewer people.
“Everything we do is always (about) going in and improving the plants, making them faster, quicker and (relying on) less people,” Talbot said.
The job involves a great deal of travel because bottlers are located throughout the country.
After all, soda has a shelf life.
“If you want to sell bottles in Philadelphia, you need to have a plant in Philadelphia,” Ingraham said. “You can’t ship them from Pittsburgh.”
Like any successful business, Talbot attributes the company’s growth to its attention to customer service.
Every company wants its own signature part: Conveyors for Coke are different than ones for Pepsi.
Heeding the heated rivalry between the soft-drink makers, AMT has made Coca-Cola conveyor parts without blue wires to avoid the use of Pepsi’s brand color. AMT also has made special accommodations for PepsiCo, including avoiding red hosing and using stainless steel with a shinier, smoother finish.
Pepsi said, “‘One thing we liked about you is we told you to change it and you did,’” Ingraham said.
Ingraham and Talbot also constantly aim to improve their products.
They refuse to buy cheaper parts from places like China. Instead, they prefer to work closely with suppliers on the Front Range so they can order exactly what they want and get it faster.
In the future, AMT plans to expand its operations to include devices for canning factories.
“We need to be more than just one product line,” Talbot said.